Luke 19:4

4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.

Luke 19:4 Meaning and Commentary

Luke 19:4

And he ran before
Jesus, and the company that was with him; so very desirous was he of seeing him:

and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him:
which sort of trees were very common about Jericho: hence we read of, (hmqv lv) (twrwq) , "beams of sycamore" in Jericho, which those that were strong took up in their arms, and the owners stood and devoted them to God F7; and among the things which the men of Jericho did, this was one, that they permitted the branches of trees devoted to sacred uses, and of the "charub" tree, and of the "sycamore", to be cut down and used F8. This sort of trees used to grow in plains and valleys, as appears from some passages of Scripture, ( 1 Kings 10:27 ) ( 2 Chronicles 9:27 ) and from Jewish writings F9; and certain it is, that Jericho was in such a situation. Josephus F11 says, it was seated in a plain; and Strabo says F12, that Jericho is a plain surrounded with mountains; to which agrees the account that F13 Justin gives of it. There is a valley, which is enclosed by mountains on all sides, as with a wall, like a castle; the space of the place is two hundred acres, and it is called Jericho. Hence we read of the plains and valley of Jericho in Scripture, ( Deuteronomy 34:3 ) ( 2 Kings 25:5 ) so that it is very probable sycamore trees grew there in great plenty; though the place was more famous for palm trees: hence it is called the city of the palm trees, ( Deuteronomy 24:3 ) ( Judges 3:13 ) which the Targumist, in both places, interprets, the city of Jericho: to which agree the accounts given of it by Pliny F14, Strabo F15, and Justin F16, who all affirm, that it abounded with palm trees; and the latter says also with balsam trees, from the sweet smell of which it might have its name: so the Jews say {q}, the ointment of balsam is called the ointment of our land, because it grows in Jericho, and because of the smell of it, it is called Jericho; though some think it has its name from the plain, being in the form of a half moon; the moon, in the Hebrew language, being called (xry) F18. This tree seems to have been without the city: and indeed, according to the Jewish canon, it ought to be, which runs thus F19;

``they set a tree at a distance from a city, twenty and five cubits, but a "charub tree", and "sycamore", fifty cubits.''

The reason of the greater distance of the latter is, as one of their commentators says F20, because their branches were large; and this is the reason why Zacchaeus went up into one of these trees, because it was large and able to bear him, and tall, from whence he could have a full view of Christ:

for he was to pass that [way];
or rather, "pass by that"; for the word "way" is not in the text; and the sense is, he was to pass by that tree; or "under" it, as the Arabic version renders it. The tree stood by the road side, in which Jesus came, for which reason Zacchaeus made choice of it, as fit for his purpose.


F7 T. Bab. Pesachim, fol. 57. 1. & Juchashin, fol. 69. 1.
F8 T. Bab. Menachot, fol. 71. 1. & Pesachim, fol. 56. 1.
F9 Misn. Sheviith, c. 9. sect. 2.
F11 De Bello Jud. l. 4. c. 27.
F12 Geograph. l. 16.
F13 Hist. l. 36. c. 3.
F14 Nat. Hist. l. 5. c. 14.
F15 Ut supra. (Geograph. l. 16.)
F16 Ib.
F17 Gloss. in T. Bab. Beracot, fol. 43. 1.
F18 Vid. Masium in Josh. c. 2. p. 37.
F19 Misna Bava Bathra, c. 2. sect. 7.
F20 Bartenora in ib.

Luke 19:4 In-Context

2 A man was there named Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was rich.
3 He was trying to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was short in stature.
4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to see him, because he was going to pass that way.
5 When Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, hurry and come down; for I must stay at your house today."
6 So he hurried down and was happy to welcome him.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.